How to farm social media — and stay out of trouble
Reprinted from an article I wrote for Prairie Farmer in February 2021.
So you’re on social media.
Sure, you’ve been on social media for years, but how serious are you about using it to grow your business or share your story? And what does that actually mean in production agriculture — and how do you do it without getting in trouble?
I have told friends and family for years that their sole purpose for posting on Facebook is to entertain me. I’m kidding, but there’s a grain of truth. Social media is where we go to when we’re standing in line, or taking a breather from work, or just looking for something to pass the time and want to catch up on what’s happening in the world. It’s our new way to entertain ourselves.
How do you grow your business in that atmosphere?
Where to start
First, decide who your customer is. For professional farm managers, appraisers and brokers, our customers are people who control the leasing, valuation, or brokerage decisions for farmland. For many farmers who are looking to grow their operations, this is also true. Perhaps your operation markets directly to consumers for a product you grow or make, or a service you provide. Maybe you have a story you want to tell and want to communicate to a wider audience. In every case, you shape your story to entertain and engage the people with whom you want to do business.
This doesn’t mean farmers and professional farm managers are at odds with each other in the social media spectrum. There are many opportunities for us to do business with each other. Engaging each other on social media is good business for farmers, and it is good business for professional farm managers.
How do you shape your story? We’re lucky because the American public has had a long romance with the profession of farming. Ties to our agrarian origin are strong. While few hail directly from the farm, many fondly recall visiting grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts or uncles on the farm. For our would-be customers, farming is a connection to their heritage.
And for the wider audience who may not have a family connection — remember, they need to eat and clothe themselves, too. Many want a positive connection to those experiences: Enter the rise of locally sourced, organic and sustainably produced products.
Social media is our opportunity in the ag community to connect people to their heritage and help provide positive experiences for meeting needs that are an integral part of their lives.
Show people. Share with them what happens on a farm. Demonstrate your stewardship of the soil, water and people in your operation. Be authentic. Bring the human element. Help make what you do real to them instead of some abstract concept. I guarantee someone is interested somewhere. I follow a sheep farm in northern Great Britain on Instagram because it’s different, yet the same.
What to do
Here are some ideas:
• Write compelling headlines. You have less than a second to grab their attention.
• Be engaging without polarizing.
• Research the demographics. Your time is best spent communicating with the market you want.
• Try new things. Shake up what you do and see what results.
• Be active. The more you post, the more effective it is.
• Use publishing tools like TweetDeck and Facebook Creator Studio. Automate your work as much as you can.
• Be authentic. Be yourself.
What not to do
And here are some things not to do:
• Avoid promotion. It’s almost Zen-like. You market through social media by not marketing.
• Don’t push your bias. You’ll lose half your audience. Confirmation bias is real. Use it to your advantage.
• Talk shop, not politics. Money is green, not red or blue.
• Don’t plagiarize. If you like what someone says, share it and put your spin on it.
• Don’t use your personal account for business. Your audience for your personal account is not likely to be the same as your business one.
• Don’t say anything in a post that you wouldn’t say in front of another person. Mama always said, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all.
Social media is a way to promote your business and be on the forefront of your potential customer’s mind when they realize they need what you offer, without having to have a huge advertising budget.
Those who don’t use it will be left behind by those who do.